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SOS Mothers: family based care for sponsored children

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SOS mothers

An SOS Mother's role is to love and care

SOS mothers are at the centre of our charity's work and are a key part of what separates us from other children's charities and orphanages.  SOS mothers are the dedicated women who work day to day for the benefit of their SOS children. They live with their children, care for their children, comfort their children and celebrate with their children.  They do all the normal things a mother would do.

Many former SOS children keep in touch with their SOS mother well beyond their time in the SOS Children's Village, showing that the same strong bond exists as between a natural mother and a child. Worldwide there are more than 5,250 SOS mothers who care for 62,000 children in 545 SOS Children's Villages.

More about SOS mothers

What is an SOS mother?

All children, who are taken into an SOS Children's Village, live together with brothers and sisters and their SOS mother. An SOS mother looks after these children when their natural parents are no longer able to do so.

What is the role of an SOS mother?

An SOS mother is paid a salary, is given a family budget depending on the size of her family, and runs her household herself. She is assisted by a family assistant, known as an "SOS aunt" (sometimes themselves training to be an SOS mother). The SOS mother accompanies the children's development process, and works together with the Village Director and the other staff in the Village.

How does SOS Children choose who becomes an SOS mother?

Women, who decide to take up the profession of an SOS mother, are carefully chosen and trained. SOS Children looks for women whose personalities and ways of dealing with life are such that the children can easily relate to them. An SOS mother passes a part of herself on to the children through the relationship she builds with each individual child. At the same time, she is an expert, who by using her training, is able to understand the children and their life stories.

An SOS Mother helping get her child ready for school

What kind of training do mothers receive?

Training and further-training for SOS mothers depends on the cultural, social and economic circumstances in each region, and varies accordingly. The spectrum ranges from regional and national training centres to programmes organised in the SOS Children's Villages, or in co-operation with other organisations. However it is organised, every prospective SOS mother completes two years of basic training. This is made up of three to six months' theoretical teaching and the balance of practical training - that is on-the-job training. During the theoretical part, the ladies are taught a wide variety of subjects, which address the range of tasks an SOS mother has to cover (education and psychotherapy for trauma, housekeeping, nutritional science, child development etc.). During the course, the qualified trainers add to the women's previous experiences in life and learning, and thus allow the women to develop their personal, as well as their specialist abilities.

Why do we focus on SOS mothers?

Ever since the first SOS Children’s Village came into being, the organisation has had good experience with SOS mothers. These women were ready to take children and youths into their own lives and to be the most important person of reference for the children in their care for a considerable time.

There is no doubt that a married couple can be a good alternative to single mothers, particularly with regard to looking after and bringing up children and youths over a long period of time. In fact, in some European countries over the last few years, some married couples have taken on the responsibility of SOS families.

What if an SOS mother wants to get married?

If an SOS mother expresses a desire to marry, we always try and find a suitable solution to enable her to continue caring for her SOS family. This often means that the SOS mother continues to look after the SOS children in the SOS Children’s Village together with her husband as a couple.

How many children do SOS mothers look after?

In developing countries, an SOS mother typically looks after between seven and ten children. In developed countries, there are typically between four and six children in an SOS family.

What happens when an SOS mother retires?

When an SOS mother's working life nears its end, she can prepare for her new life by having individual sessions or specialised seminars with other SOS mothers facing the same change. Furthermore, the organisation is committed to offering mothers, who have reached retirement age and have worked as an SOS mother for at least fifteen years, a monthly pension, a permanent residence and medical costs until the end of their lives.

What about SOS fathers?

We understand that a male role model is also important in a child's development. As we stated above, there are in fact a few males who work as family heads in our Villages, often as part of a married couple.

We make sure we have strong male role models working in and around each SOS Children's Village.  They might be the Village Director or other professionals who help to care for the Village like doctors, psychologists, and social workers.

Read SOS mother stories from around the world

An SOS Mother and her family

Being an SOS mother at the SOS Children's Village Blantyre, Malawi

The first SOS mother turns 90!

Meet Mama Lyd, the first SOS mother at SOS Children's Villages Philippines

Read an interview with an SOS mother from the Czech Republic

Mother's Day celebrations in Ecuador

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